A growing need for food, clean water and energy, limited resources and a booming world population – reconciling all these factors is the greatest challenge of our time. Innovations based on chemistry play a key role here, as they contribute decisively to new solutions. Effective and efficient research and development are a prerequisite for innovations as well as an important growth engine for BASF. We work in interdisciplinary teams on innovative processes and products for a sustainable future. This is how we ensure our long-term business success with chemistry-based solutions for almost all sectors of industry.
Employees in research and development worldwide
Spent on research and development
Projects in research pipeline
For BASF, innovation is the key to successfully standing out from the crowd in a challenging market environment. Our innovative strength is based on our global team of highly qualified employees with various specializations. We had around 10,000 employees involved in research and development in 2016. Our three global technology platforms are each run from one of the regions particularly signiﬁcant for us – Europe, Asia Paciﬁc and North America: Process Research & Chemical Engineering (Ludwigshafen, Germany), Advanced Materials & Systems Research (Shanghai, China) and Bioscience Research (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina). Together with the development units in our operating divisions, they form the core of our global Know-How Verbund. BASF New Business GmbH and BASF Venture Capital GmbH supplement this network with the task of using new technologies to tap into attractive markets and new business models for BASF.
In 2016, we generated sales of over €10 billion with products launched on the market since 2011 that stemmed from research and development activities. In the long term, we aim to continue signiﬁcantly increasing sales and earnings with new and improved products.
Global network: postdoc centers
- Network with around 600 universities, research institutes and companies
Our global network of about 600 universities, research institutes and companies forms an important part of our Know-How Verbund. We collaborate with them in many different disciplines. The direct access to external scientiﬁc expertise, new technologies and talented minds from various disciplines strengthens our portfolio with creative new projects.
In our excellence program “UNIQUE – The BASF Academic Partnership Program,” we are working intensively with ﬁfteen leading universities around the world. BASF also runs four postdoc centers that pool collaborations with several research groups on a regional level. The North American Center for Research on Advanced Materials (NORA) and the California Research Alliance (CARA) are located in North America. The Joint Research Network on Advanced Materials and Systems (JONAS) is active in Europe, while the Network for Advanced Materials Open Research (NAO) covers the Asia Pacific region.
In order to continuously promote exchange with external customers and partners, we have integrated the Creator Space® approach from our 2015 anniversary year into our regular research activities. We use this program to develop innovative ideas.
- Enhanced innovation approach with strong focus on customers and markets
- Increased use of digital technologies
- Globalizing research and strengthening regional competencies
Our research pipeline comprised approximately 3,000 projects in 2016. Expenses for research and development amounted to around €1,863 million, slightly below the prior year’s level (€1,953 million). This was particularly attributable to the rearrangement of research activities in plant biotechnology and the corresponding adjustment of site structure in North America and Europe. Operating divisions were responsible for 79% of total research and development expenses in 2016. The remaining 21% was allocated to cross-divisional corporate research focusing on long-term topics of strategic importance to the BASF Group. We strive to maintain the recent years’ high level of spending on research and development.
Innovations based on chemistry require market-oriented research and development focused on the needs of our customers. That is why our cross-divisional corporate research is closely aligned with the requirements of our operating divisions. In order to bring promising ideas to market as quickly as possible, we regularly assess our research projects using a multistep process and focus our topics accordingly. Creativity, efficiency and collaboration with external partners are among the most important success factors.
We enhanced our innovation approach in 2016 with the aim of increasing our company’s power of innovation and securing long-term competitive ability. We aim to achieve this by honing our research focus on topics that are strategically relevant for our business, strengthening our existing scientific processes and methods and introducing new ones, and optimizing organizational structures.
In so doing, we restructured cross-divisional corporate research in 2016 to create more space for the quick review of creative research approaches. At the same time, we tailored our previous technology fields even more toward the needs of the BASF Group. They have been rearranged into multiple, strategic key technologies that are constantly being further developed. We also place our focus on the innovative application of specific key technologies that are of central significance for our operating divisions. Examples include polymer technologies, catalyst processes and strategies for the development of biodegradable and bio-based materials.
In order to develop future business ﬁelds with high sales potential for BASF, we develop speciﬁc growth ﬁelds. These are regularly reviewed in terms of their attractiveness for BASF.
When they mature, we transfer them to the operating divisions and promote the development of new approaches with high market potential. In addition, we have set a course for systematically using digital technologies in research and development. In the years ahead, existing expertise in fields like modeling and simulation will be consistently expanded and new digital work areas will be developed.
After rearranging our research activities in plant biotechnology, we undertook further organizational adjustments to our global R+D structures at the end of 2016. Research activities in Singapore were discontinued toward the end of the year due to market developments. We are pursuing the research topics located there at other sites. Research and development activities at the European research sites in Basel and Düsseldorf were restructured in order to be able to support the operating divisions there more effectively.
Our global research and development presence is vital to our success. In 2015, we had completed the expansion of the Innovation Campus Asia Pacific in Shanghai, China. A second Innovation Campus Asia Pacific is now being set up in Mumbai, India, in order to continue strengthening our regional research capacities. There, the focus areas in research will be on crop protection and method development.
We want to continue advancing our research and development activities in Asia especially, as well as in North America, and are adapting this to the growth in regional markets. This increased presence outside Europe creates new opportunities for fortifying and expanding customer relations and scientiﬁc collaborations and for gaining access to talented employees. The result will be to strengthen our Research and Development Verbund and make BASF an even more attractive partner and employer, both on a global level and in the regions.
Ludwigshafen remains the largest site in our Research Verbund. In the nearby BASF agricultural center of Limburgerhof – headquarters of the Crop Protection division – a new research and development center for biological crop protection and seed solutions was opened in April 2016.
The number and quality of our patents also attest to our power of innovation and long-term competitiveness. We ﬁled around 850 new patents worldwide in 2016. For the eighth time in succession, we headed the rankings in the Patent Asset Index in 2016 – a method which compares patent portfolios industry-wide.